What Is Matzo Meal?

published Apr 8, 2022
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Credit: Joe Lingeman

In the springtime, grocery stores begin stocking boxes and boxes of matzo alongside cylindrical tubes of matzo meal — two star ingredients in the observance of Passover, a Jewish holiday commemorating the Jews’ liberation from slavery in Egypt. 

But what exactly is matzo meal, and why is it so important? Here’s the full rundown on matzo meal and a few of our favorite recipes for using it.

What Is Matzo Meal?

Matzo meal is a kind of breadcrumb made from ground matzo. Matzo meal can be coarse or fine, depending on the application. It is an essential ingredient in Jewish cooking — especially matzo ball soup — and can also be used in kugels, casseroles, and baking applications, specifically around Passover, when the use of other ingredients by Jews, such as wheat flour and cornmeal, is restricted. 

To make matzo meal from scratch, process matzo in a food processor or high-speed blender until the desired texture is achieved.

Both matzo meal and matzo ball soup mix (matzo meal with additional leaveners and seasonings) can be found in most grocery stores and food shops that specialize in Jewish foods, as well as online. (Streit’s and Manischewitz can both be found on Amazon.)

What Is Matzo? 

Matzo (also matza or matzah) is an unleavened flatbread typical in Jewish cooking, especially around the spring holiday Passover, when eating certain foods is restricted. During Passover, only matzo made with flour and water is considered kosher. 

There are two main types of matzo — a soft, pliable bread similar to pita and a crunchy, cracker-like square ‘bread’ that is used to make matzo meal. Often called the “bread of affliction,” matzo is known for having a very bland flavor. 

Origins of Matzo

According to Jewish law, there are five grains that may be used for making matzo: wheat, barley, spelt, rye, or oat. The most common variety is made with wheat flour. In recent years, manufacturers have also begun making gluten-free matzo using potato starch and other non-traditional flours.

Eating matzo commemorates the Jews’ hasty departure from Egypt when there was not enough time for bread to rise, and as such, matzo bread must be made in under 18 minutes to be considered kosher for Passover. 

Matzo that is kosher for Passover will be marked as such on the box. Flavored matzo is not suitable for the Seder, the ceremonial Passover meal, but may be consumed during the week of Passover following the Seder.

What’s the Difference Between Matzo Meal, Matzo Cake Meal, and Matzo Farfel?

The different types of matzo can be identified by the coarseness of the grind. Matzo meal closely resembles standard breadcrumbs, whereas matzo cake meal is ground extremely finely. Matzo farfel, in contrast, is bigger pieces of matzo, more suitable for stuffing or other applications where larger shards of matzo are preferred. 

Matzo Meal Substitutes

During Passover, matzo meal substitutes must not be made with ingredients that are considered kitniyot — seeds and grains such as rice and corn that are prohibited. One acceptable substitute is almond flour. During any other time of year, crushed crackers such as saltines or oyster crackers and any breadcrumbs, including panko, can be used. 

How to Use Matzo Meal

Matzo meal can stand in for breadcrumbs in almost any situation. A more coarsely ground matzo meal will work well for meatballs and meatloaf, while a finer grind is more suitable for baking. Matzo meal cannot be used as a 1-to-1 substitute for flour, but in recipes where only a small amount of flour is used, it can be substituted with no issues. 

Try Our Favorite Matzo Meal Recipes

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